Sports briefs, Oct. 24

Posted Oct. 24, 2011, at 8:19 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2011, at 12:21 a.m.

Louisville CB Conner has surgery on broken neck

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville cornerback Anthony Conner had surgery Monday at Jewish Hospital after breaking his neck making a tackle against Rutgers Friday night.

Coach Charlie Strong said the procedure was performed to “stabilize a cervical fracture” and that Conner “continues to maintain good feeling and movement in all his extremities.”

Conner was in good spirits this morning prior to the procedure that began at approximately 10 a.m., Strong said.

Strong said doctors felt Conner might be able to leave the hospital “in the next couple days.” Before Conner can go home, doctors need to see that Conner can again walk, Strong said.

“There’s nothing that’s keeping him from walking because he has the feelings in his legs and hands,” Strong said.

Strong said he has stressed to his team the need to live in the moment after watching one of their teammates suffer a career-ending injury.

Louisville has not yet decided how it will honor the senior for the rest of the season.

Strong said he could tell it when Conner was injured that it was more than just a normal hard hit.

“It was kind of right in front of me. When he made the hit and when he flipped and his hands tightened up I said over the headset to Vance (Bedford), our defensive coordinator, ‘Oh God, Vance. This doesn’t look good.'”

Conner was unconscious on the field. Strong and Bedford’s were the first voices Conner heard after regaining consciousness.

Mayor pitches plan to keep Vikings in Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis city officials say a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings could be built more cheaply there than in the Twin Cities suburbs.

Mayor R.T. Rybak emerged from a private meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday to say he thinks the most realistic way to pay for a new stadium is with a citywide sales tax increase. He says the increase would also pay for renovations to Target Center, where the NBA Timberwolves play, and for property tax relief.

Rybak says he will spend the coming week putting together a more specific plan for the governor.

The Vikings’ preferred plan would put a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. They are in the last year of their lease at the Metrodome.

Book “3 and Out” takes look at Rich Rodriguez era

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A new book is coming out that looks at the Rich Rodriguez era in Michigan football.

Author John U. Bacon says the main figures in his book “Three and Out” have made their displeasure with him clear.

He writes that former coach Lloyd Carr was the initial person connected to Michigan to call Rich Rodriguez in December 2007, and that Carr was the first to encourage then-athletic director Bill Martin to consider hiring Rodriguez.

Bacon claims Carr later told his players he would sign the forms allowing them to transfer in what they interpreted as “a vote of no confidence” in Rodriguez.

Carr did not respond to Bacon’s interview requests for the book that will be released Tuesday. Messages were left by The Associated Press with Carr and Rodriguez.

Bradford still in boot, Smith has concussion

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo says Sam Bradford remains in a walking boot and wasn’t sure of the quarterback’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

Bradford has been shut down since Friday in hopes that will help heal his high left ankle sprain.

Offensive tackle Jason Smith has a concussion and will visit a specialist for a neck injury sustained in Sunday’s loss at Dallas and defensive tackle Darell Scott also has a concussion.

Cornerback Justin King has a groin injury and Spagnuolo didn’t think he’d be available for the next practice on Wednesday, further depleting a thin position.

Brantley expected to play against Georgia

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Will Muschamp expects quarterback John Brantley’s return to provide a “huge psychological shock.”

The Gators could use a huge offensive boost, too.

Muschamp’s team has scored just 17 points in 10 quarters since Brantley injured his right ankle against Alabama on Oct. 1. It’s the program’s worst three-game stretch of offense since 1988, and it has the Gators clinging to hope in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division race.

Brantley could help turn things around.

The fifth-year senior returned to practice in a limited role Monday and was expected to play against No. 22 Georgia in Jacksonville on Saturday.

“We expect his reps to increase as the week grows,” Muschamp said. “But we wanted to get him out today and get him out there moving around and get people around him and throw the football around a little bit. I fully expect him to continue to progress through the week unless we hit something that we’re not predicting. I fully expect him to be fine.”

The Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) need Brantley back in the mix.

Brantley has completed 65 percent of his passes for 942 yards this season, with five touchdown and three interceptions. His numbers are modest, but his importance became evident when Charlie Weis’ offense was turned over to two true freshmen.

Jacoby Brissett started at top-ranked LSU and completed 8 of 14 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in a 41-11 loss. He also threw two interceptions and often looked lost against one of the nation’s top defenses.

He wasn’t any better against one of the SEC’s worst defenses. Brissett completed 5 of 10 passes for 45 yards, with an interception against Auburn the following week. He was benched at halftime in favor of fellow freshman Jeff Driskel, who threw for 75 yards in a 17-6 loss.

Muschamp has not decided on a backup.

But barring a setback, Brantley will be back under center against the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1).

“Getting him back is going to be a huge psychological shock for our football team,” Muschamp said. “I really believe that. … Obviously, the production when he was not in the game went down. You’ve got to give our opponents some credit on that as well.

“There’s no question he gives us a psychological boost for our football team on offense and on defense, too, because that effects how the defense plays sometimes.”

Muschamp believes Brantley’s injury deflated a young, inexperienced team that played with lots of confidence in the first four weeks of the season. No one knows for sure whether Brantley would have helped the Gators beat Alabama, LSU or Auburn, but the team certainly looked different with him standing on the sideline on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

“You can’t let one thing affect you so much where if affects how you play,” Muschamp said. “That’s what I really challenged the players: Don’t let the circumstances around you control how you are. You control who you are and you play the game regardless of the situation, and you play with a reckless attitude regardless of the situation. Those are the things that we can continue to grow on.”

Since his father, John Brantley III, and uncle, Scot Brantley, played for the Gators, John Brantley desperately wanted to get healthy in time to face rival Georgia. Florida has won 18 of the last 21 meetings.

Brantley stayed in a walking boot for more than two weeks, giving his ankle extra time to heal, and did little or nothing outside throwing some passes in practice last week. His ankle reacted fine to the first test, but the next step is seeing if it can hold up through a week of practice.

“When John had his injury, he was very disappointed and hurt, down,” Muschamp said. “He told me back then, he said, ‘I want to get back for Georgia.’ It’s important to John. Of course, his dad is a Gator; his uncle was a Gator. They understand the importance of this game. There’s no question that he really pinpointed trying to get back for this game.”

US women finish 7th in basketball at Pan Am Games

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The United States finished seventh among eight women’s basketball teams at the Pan American Games.

The Americans routed Jamaica 87-41 Monday for a second straight victory. The U.S. women usually play for a medal, but that was surely not the case this time.

In the only early gold medal of the day, Yuderquis Contreras of the Dominican Republic won the 117-pound division in women’s weightlifting. Sixteen more gold medals are at stake on Day 10 of the games, including five in track and field.

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